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The Netherlands

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The Netherlands (also popularly, though inaccurately, called Holland in English, in Dutch Nederland) is a Benelux country in Western Europe, facing onto the North Sea and the United Kingdom and bordered on land by Germany and Belgium. The people, language, and culture of the Netherlands are referred to as "Dutch".

Quite a few travellers visit the Netherlands to enjoy its famously tolerant attitude: prostitution is legalized and licensed and the sale, possession and consumption of small quantities of cannabis or magic mushrooms, while technically still illegal, is officially tolerated by the authorities under a policy of gedogen (tolerance). Harder drugs (eg. ecstasy or cocaine) remain illegal both in theory and practice. In the same open minded atmosphere is the Dutch ease towards homosexuality, making the Netherlands one of the most gay-friendly countries on the planet. To experience these freedoms, you're best off in Amsterdam with coffeeshops and clubs. On a note unrelated to tourism-but still relating to its liberal culture-Euthanasia, abortion, wearing traditional wooden clogs (klompen) and same-sex marriage are also legal.

By boat
There are three ferry services from the UK

Stena Line between Harwich and Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland)
DFDS Seaways between Newcastle upon Tyne and IJmuiden
P&O Ferries between Kingston Upon Hull and Rotterdam Europoort.
More information, timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries is available at Ferries To Amsterdam. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world, and (in theory) a good place for Freighter travel.


By bus
Eurolines are the main 'operator' for international buses to the Netherlands. (In fact the name Eurolines is a brand used by different operators). Services are limited: only a few main routes have a daily direct service.

By plane
Schiphol Airport ( http://www.schiphol.nl ), near Amsterdam, is a European hub, although not as important as London or Paris. It is by far the biggest international airport in the country, and a point of interest in itself, being 4 metres below mean sea level. From Schiphol there are excellent railway connections: The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht and most large cities have a direct train service. The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall. The train is the quickest and cheapest way to get to Amsterdam, or indeed anywhere else outside the vicinity of the airport. Taxis are expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be avoided. Some hotels in Amsterdam, and around the airport, have a shuttle bus service.

Other international airports are Rotterdam Airport, Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht/Aachen Airport and Groningen-Eelde Airport.

By train
from France and Belgium
The Thalys high-speed train ( http://www.thalys.nl ), which connects the Netherlands with France and Belgium, is a bit expensive, but if you book a return in advance or if you're under 26 or over 60 you can get good deals. It is also faster, normally cheaper and more convenient than flying.

For trips to Brussels or Antwerp it is usually cheaper - and almost as fast - to catch the Benelux train, which runs hourly from Amsterdam, via Schiphol, The Hague, Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Roosendaal. No seat reservations are required - just buy your ticket and get on board.

Trains from Maastricht to Liege in Belgium run hourly, and take around 30 minutes.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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